A cold wind bites my cheeks, weaving through my hair and across my bare shoulders. I didn't bring a jacket because I like the way goosebumps feel when they crawl over my flesh. It doesn't ever get too cold in California, but the fall months do provide chilly nights and fogs of breath to cloud outdoor conversations. The steam of my black coffee rises from the cup clasped in my hands. It smells thick of mornings I hate waking up to and late nights spent memorizing a monologue or revising a draft for a play. The drink is so intricately woven to experiences I despise, and here's another one I can add to the list, another espresso-related moment I can scribble down and cringe at whenever it comes up.
Sometimes, I just really fucking hate everything.
Beck's face is solemn. His head is bowed, black hair a jagged shadow, elbows on his knees, and his own coffee is sitting forgotten between us. Neither of us are talking. It's just the sound of footsteps rumbling in and out of the Starbucks behind us and the traffic vibrating the road. There's a streetlight alternating between stop and yield and go and I stare at the changing colors like it's a kaleidoscope. A car tries to jump the green, a sleek, red vehicle that's pulsing music far too loudly, only for it to rock back on its brake as a truck zooms across the intersection. There's some yelling, a raised middle finger, before the driver is off.
"Say something. Please."
I bring my coffee to my lips. It's really far too hot to be drinking it quite yet but I don't care; I let the scalding liquid sear the roof of my mouth, my tastebuds frying away. I lower the cup to my knees, pinching it between them. My mouth is throbbing, blood swelling, and I suck it down my throat.
"What do you want me to say?" I tear my eyes from the streetlight, that stupid fucking indicator that has probably lead to more deaths than any war, that has malfunctioned or prompted people to go without looking and it's probably their fault but, Jesus, sometimes life is distracting and you just don't think to look up. Beck meets my eyes, dark and ringed with sadness - not the same sadness that settled there after his Gran died, not the same sadness that plagued him when he didn't get a callback for a commercial he desperately wanted to star in. It's different, new, thick and heavy in his eyes like black-out curtains. "Honestly, Beck. What the fuck do you expect me to say? 'Thanks for everything? No hard feelings? We'll be the best of friends?'"
"Don't be like that." He looks away again, a sigh rattling his shoulders.
My usual answer to prolonged anger is violence. Everyone who has pissed me off has learned that the hard way. I have an insane urge to punch him right in the nose until I hear it crack, or black his eyes, or slam my boot between his legs until he begs for mercy. Anything to even come close to what's tearing my insides to shreds, plucking every tendon and ligament until they snap.
But he's Beck, and I've never physically hurt him before. I've never swung at him, even when he's done nothing but piss me off for days. Because I love him. Because I've loved him for two years. Because he's Beck and he's been with me forever and I'm so in love with him I don't know how to picture my life without him in it but here he is, cropping himself out of the photograph.
"Fuck you." There's no real malice in my words. I try, really, to generate the anguish that's ripping me apart somewhere in my chest into a tone of complete and total hatred, but it just breaks and shatters and the pieces litter the bottom of my lungs. My throat is tightening. My eyes are stinging. I've always been vulnerable with him, have always let him settle in my soft spot. But now he's puncturing it, digging deep, clawing, all with a frown on his face. "Fuck you, Beck."
"I did love you, Jade. I really did. And I still do. I just, it's not - it's not working. This isn't working."
I glare at him like I want him to set on fire. What's not working? I love him. He loves me. We kiss, we talk, we hang out, we laugh, we do things together. How is it not working? We fight. We bicker. I'm jealous and overbearing whenever he so much as looks at another girl, but he always said he liked that about me, that he felt protected. Just the night before he kissed me before I went home, hot and soft on the lips, and the same spark that has jolted me with every brush of contact had airplanes colliding in my stomach.
"What's not working? Everything's been absolutely fine. How can you just -" I bite my lip. It's quivering, and my voice is cracking, and for fucks sake I am not crying on top of everything else. Not in front of a busy Starbucks with possible life or death choices going on at the streetlight not that far away. "I don't understand."
"You're my first real girlfriend. I've never dated anyone else. I - I just don't feel the same. I don't want to lead you on until I'm absolutely sure. It wouldn't be fair to you."
"Is there another girl?" I turn back to him, giving up on keeping myself from crying. It's not going to happen. Tears swell in my eyes and spill over. Beck scoots closer to me, moving the coffee out of the way so he can put his thumbs on both of my cheeks, brushing the tears away. His hands are hot against the cold wind.
"No. Jade, I swear, there's no one else. I'm just feeling really conflicted right now and I just - I don't know where you fit. As a friend or as more." He removes his hand but remains close, brown eyes piercing into mine. "I have loved you more than anything for two years. You're beautiful and funny and smart and my best friend. None of this has anything to do with you. It's just me and my head and trying to figure out where my feelings lie." A hand runs through his hair, yanking it back. "We're seniors. We graduate in nine months. I need some time to figure out what I really want to do with the rest of my life. I need some time for myself so I know my choices aren't being influenced by anyone else." His hand claps on my knee. "I need to do this, Jade. For me. I'm sorry."
I know he means it. Beck is a genuine guy, and I've known him long enough to understand that he wouldn't do anything if he didn't think it was right. I shake my head, though, because I don't want to believe it, I don't want him to say these things with such sincerity. I want him to laugh, to say he's joking, that he's going to marry me and star in movies with me until we're old and wrinkled. I want him to say forever and mean it.
I kiss him. I kiss him hard and hungry and desperate, like it'll convince him to stay. I hold his face and he touches my hair and people are staring at us but I don't care. He tastes and smells just like coffee and he's always been my weak spot, the chink in my armor, my Achilles heel. And he's severed the muscle, torn it up to leave me gimp and limping, all while saying he was sorry, that he had to do it for himself.
He drives me home in silence. I hold his hand on the console and try to breathe, to think of something to say that could possibly make him change his mind. But I don't because it'll only make me feel like more shit than I already am. We drive slowly through streetlights, Beck ever cautious and always aware of his surroundings, subconsciously checking for reckless drivers. The red lights are frequent, always stop and go, yielding for intersecting traffic and moving along at a safe place when we're ushered to. I breathe in the familiar smell of his car, of him, and pray that the apocalypse drops its hell on us before we get to my house.
It doesn't, though, and we don't crash, and Beck is the same good driver he's always been. He parks in my driveway, my empty house looming over me like a prison. I stare through the windshield, not moving, my grip on Beck enough to cut off his circulation. At least he did it on a Friday. At least I have a few days to pull myself together before Monday forces me to walk down the hallways alone.
"I love you." I've said the words so many times in fleeting conversations, whispers in the sheets of his bed, the walls of my house. I've always meant them. They have always been true.
"I love you, too. And I know that either way -" (if he wants me or not - he doesn't say it but we're both thinking it) "- we'll be okay."
"I doubt it." I crank the door open before he can say anything. My fingers squeeze his as I stand, my body turning so I can look back in at him with our hands still linked. I stare at them, my eyes already sore from crying and I can feel tears dripping down my jaw. And then I let go and shut the door and he pulls slowly away. I stand with my arms crossed, watching him drive carefully down my street, his back lights beaming red before disappearing.
I consider falling to the grass on my knees and howling at the moon like a dramatic romance movie. I consider going inside and burning everything Beck has ever touched. I consider curling up in my bed and snotting all over my pillow like normal people would do.
But I grab my keys from the kitchen counter and sprint to my car.
Andre and Robbie are out of the question. I don't particularly like either of them for various reasons. That, and I know neither of them would know what to say or do. I don't even know what I want to hear and I'm the one seeking out another person. There's Cat, but she wouldn't be able to fully grasp it, she'd just try to give me ice cream and pat my back and put her yappy dog in my lap. She'd be just as clueless as the boys, and that only leaves me with one choice.
I mentally curse as I pull out of my driveway. I fucking hate needing anyone, anyone except Beck, and here I am for the second damn time driving to Tori Vega's house while crying my eyes out. But I have no one else and I know she'll help me because Tori's anything if not a goddamn saint. She'll tell me what I need to hear, she'll coddle me and balance it with enough sternness to help me.
I'd sooner swallow razor blades soaked in acid before I ever admitted out loud that I need Tori, but that wouldn't make it any less true.
And so I drive, and every stoplight I reach, I think about speeding through a red light, just for the thrill, just because I fucking can.
A/N: Finally! I'm dedicating myself to another multichapter Jori story. It's about time.
It'll alternate between Jade's POV and Tori's. Enjoy~